Does Alzheimer’s begin with a shortage of omega-3 ?

Docosahexaenoic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) is essential for proper functioning of adult human brains.  Numerous studies have connected shortages of this nutrient with neurodegenerative diseases.  

So DHA is good for brain, more should protect it from falling apart -  right ?

Yes, BUT,  it turns out that numerous studies have been done in which vulnerable populations supplement with omega-3.  It helps, SOMETIMES, or a little, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be a magic bullet that “fixes” Alzheimer’s disease.

It has been suggested that in these studies patients have not taken enough of the stuff and/or they are starting too late, when damage has already begun – both of these a very plausible ideas, but a recent study coming out University of California introduces a new twist. 

The researchers had a look at postmortem liver tissue from Alzheimer’s patients and discovered that their livers didn’t seem to be able to make DHA very well. The degree of cognitive problems in a patient, seemed to correlate with the shortage of DHA in the liver.  Investigating liver samples of people who died of other problems showed the DHA synthesis problem was an Alzheimer patient problem.

A quick biology lesson on the chemistry of DHA.  

DHA is the last guy on the list of omega 3 fatty acids.  It can be synthesized from shorter molecules which belong to the omega-3 family found in flax, chia and hemp, but, if the enzymes aren’t up to the task, the only way to get it is to consume fish or krill.

Biochemical pathway of DHA synthesis

So what should you do ? 

Balancing the eicosanoids / supplementing with omega-3 is already one of the BIG spoons.  The results of this study emphasize the need to get the dose right and reinforce the value of supplementing with fish / krill oil.  Fish oil/krill oil provides DHA to the brain directly, avoiding any additional metabolic processing.

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